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Episcopal Corner

How To Respond When Someone Sits in Your Pew…


… or you sit in theirs!  We all carry a bubble of personal space.  For some people, it’s several feet.  For others, it’s about a millimeter.  Wherever on the spectrum you happen to fall, there are certain situations in which we invite visitors into our little sphere of experience – such as a church.  Furthermore, human beings are territorial in nature and sometimes see strangers inside the bubble as an affront.  These situations need not be causes for alarm.


Smile and greet those who are new to you.  Often, they may be visitors to the congregation – and you may be the first face they see.  Make courteous eye contact so they know you mean it, shake hands with them, with no impression that anyone has done something wrong.  (The days of “pew rental” – in which the church was funded by the actual rented ownership of pews – is long past, though many have their “favorite spot.”)


Make this “intrusion” an opportunity.  Remember, no one owns the pew; all just borrow it once a week.  If you discover someone in your favorite place, take the opportunity to get out of your rut and sit someplace new.  This will physically emphasize a change in your perspective and may yield new spiritual discoveries. 


If you can tell that your new friends feel uncomfortable, despite your efforts to the contrary, make an extra effort at courtesy.  Consider the possibility of an after-church brunch.  The Episcopal Handbook